Seconds – 1966
Director – John Frankenheimer
Starring – Rock Hudson, Salome Jens, and John Randolph
With a twist that I saw coming from a mile away, John Frankenheimer’s Seconds is a film that suffers because of my knowledge of modern movie making. Simply because of the fact that I’ve seen movies such as The Usual Suspects, Saw, and anything directed by M. Night Shyamalan, I, and others like me, are far more likely to spot an ending like this coming.
While the general plot of the movie was an intriguing one (a man gives up the trappings of his old life, and assumes a new identity in an effort to start over), the ending wasn’t alone in being rather sub-par and un-fulfilling. Our main character, Tony/Arthur, has been receiving disturbing telephone calls from his old friend. The problem is that is friend has been dead for a while. It turns out his friend has enlisted the services of the “organization”. For a cost, the organization will fake your death, and then provide you with extensive plastic surgery, dental reconstruction, a new home, new friends, and a new job. All this is provided for by the insurance policies that “the organization” takes out in your former name, and then collects on your behalf.
The problem comes in when the services rendered aren’t necessarily asked for or sought out. Arthur (our main character’s name before his faked death) was told to go to a secret location by a friend who he thought was dead. When he gets there, he is sereptitiously brought to a hidden office somewhere, drugged and then blackmailed. It is only then, after all the hullaballoo, that he is told what the proceedure entails. Not only this, but we are never given any real reason to believe that this is something that he would have wanted, let alone gone through with.
Once Arthur becomes Tony (post death name), our main character becomes rightfully confused and upset by his circumstances, and begins to act out a bit. He tries going back to see his former wife only to find that she’s moved on with her life after his death. Understandably Tony is troubled by this, but for seemingly no reason at all he decides that the best course of action is to ask for another new life from the organization. Now maybe it’s just my good old 2000’s common sense talking, but I wouldn’t assume you could just go demanding favors from a group of people that extort money from you by forcibly faking your death (complete with a real corpse mind you), and steering you into a new life where you are constantly monitored and confused. I guess that’s just me.
One thing I can give this movie credit for, is the camera work. The stark black and white photography combined with the claustrophobic positioning of the camera, provides for a very paranoid tone. We the audience, are thrust into this situation the same way the main character is, and as a result we are very discombobulated, and off balance. These feelings are intensified by the extreme wide angles that the film is shot in. Close up’s of our actors faces become uncomfortable, distended, and distorted, it’s just too bad that the story doesn’t live up to the set up.